Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tony O'Neill and the EveryAddict's Tale

I seem to have crossed paths with a goodly number of addicts in my life, which sometimes make me wonder if there are more of them than I realize or if I simply attract addicts. I don’t know the statistics of what percentage of people in society are addicts… but in a crowd, I can find the alcoholic, pothead, acid fiend, meth maniac, and their like in any number of recreational pharmaceuticals. Maybe it has to do with all that Buddha compassion stuff – I empathize with their suffering, rather than sneer in disgust.

So, it is with my supra-layman’s knowledge of addiction that I came to hear punk poet, musician, and heroin junkie Tony O’Neill’s afternoon reading at Marianopolis college. O’Neill drew upon an assorted collection of poems and short stories, including an unpublished work. I might be mistaken when I call them autobiographical, and I fear falling into that trap of confusing the man with the writing, but the stories show close familiarity of the life of a junkie and a junkie’s obsession with drugs. With what little I know of O’Neill, these are works about his life, or at least, about some of his experiences with drugs. His writings are intimate and visceral, recounting an endless series of days living below the surface in which getting high and hopefully higher is the alpha and omega of existence.

Reading poems in print is very different from reading them aloud. The poems are wonderful heard aloud. However, as the reading marched on past the hour mark, I found it tedious that every poem focused on alcohol and drugs, save for one or two that mentioned alcoholism and drugs. Every poem. After awhile, it was as though he were telling the same story but with an anagram of drugs and characters. Then, perhaps, I did what no critic should really do – I began to contemplate how the man and art were the same, and drew the conclusion that his addiction to drugs was now an addiction to writing about drugs. Truly, he was still an addict of sorts, and this left me feeling like an uncomfortable voyeur, looking into the life of a person with malfunctional machinery. At this point, whatever amused me about his writing ceased and I was unable to focus on the man as artist, but instead saw him as a man telling his own Addict’s Tale. And, quite simply, I am never entertained by the reality of the junkie’s existence and am not comfortable laughing at the absurdity and dehumanized pathos of junkie situations.

He is a fine writer – an excellent writer. He is able to convey his frailty and his monstrosity with immediacy. He hits notes of incredible beauty and poignancy in his writing. His melanged accent and slightly nervous demeanor help endear him to the audience. Yet, my opinion remains quite staunch; his junkie story was simply a more literate version of the EveryAddict’s tale, the same assemblage of miseries I have heard from others: the pawning of everything in the house for drugs, the cradle of the cement sidewalk, meaningless sexual experiences and marriages while high. In fact, I was waiting for my favourite EveryAddict Tale motif – the way the first white light of day breaking the sky is a time of great grief and fear, the end of the cover of darkness.

What O’Neill does is not new. As a voracious reader of addict tales, I thought of his similarities with the Jay MacInerneys and Bret Easton Ellises, the Hunter S. Thompsons and Irvine Welshes, and even more recent Ellen Hopkinses. Addict tales are nothing new and every generation has its share of bards who wax poetic about the ugliness and wildness of the raw life. But, with his talent, O’Neill would do far more to distinguish himself by launching himself into territory beyond the gutter and the crack hotel.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Montreal Music This Week (behind alas)

Truth be told, I should have done this days ago. I've been out to a few shows... and now I should review them and all that. Well, I'll see how my time stretches or doesn't.
So, this week, holy schmokes, wow.
First, let me report that old time friends of mine, a band of fantastic name: Grand Theft Bus, played the Black Dot with Snailhouse and Tall Firs on Friday. The Black Dot is kick ass as far as venues go. This is my kind of place. It's practically someone's living room that's been converted into a venue. I felt like I was peeking in on a band practicing in the living room. It was wonderbar! Anyway, the Bus delivered as per usual. They have a new sound and a new member(its been a few years since I've seen them play), but still manage to deconstruct sound and create a kind of noisy chaos that eventually re-evolves into more melodic pieces. I think its fun, but I'm not sure if all the indie hipsters in the room got it. But that's kind of my complaint about stereotypical groups. When it comes to indie hipsters, of it wasn't discussed on stillepost or pitchfork media, they don't know what to think.

Alright, so let's do the rundown. I realize it's sunday already. eep. Well, I should recap what you could of seen on Saturday just to keep things here kind of regular-ish.

So, Friday, if you weren't heading to hear the Bus, I would have told everyone to check out Jorane at Le Nationale. She is something awesome. A french cellist who fuses pop and rock with classical music. She's pretty special and doesn't play that often (at least, it doesn't seem like she plays very often).

Saturday, um... I was also occupied with a huge War Requiem put on by McGill's Schulich School of Music. It was big, intense, and passionate -- held in the church at Henri Julien and Rachel -- a wonderful venue for it. A boy's choir was seated in the balcony above, sounding like angels pronouncing the anti-war message. Anyway, that was well worth attending, but there were many other goods going on: Basia Bulat, for example. And, oooh, at Petit Campus was the Party Bluets, which apparently included the very cool Psycho Riders and another of my favs: Les Dales Hawerchucks.

Sunday, that would be today, right? Well, I was at l'escalier (formerly known as L'Utopik) watching jazzy soul singer accompanied by a human beatbox and some mighty flamenco like fingers on the guitair. It was wonderful. But, I could have seen Autechre (sigh) at Club Soda, Heros and Villains at Divan Orange, or even the Dirtbombs at the Musee Juste Pour Rire theatre. Well, you can't do it all.

Monday is quiet. Nothing of note. Although, I'm intrigued by this band's name: Elephantine... playing at Sala Rossa, which suggests this might be worth checking out if it falls in a genre of music that interests me.

Tuesday... whoa... Hot chip with Free Blood. I tried to get a ticket today, but it was soooold out. boo.

Wednesday. I don't think my eyes are deceiving me, but I'm blinking. The Cult is playing at L'Olympia with the Clicks. I think my devotion to the cult ended when they sold She Sells Sanctuary to Toyota or some other car company.

So, let me pre-empt next week a bit, just in case I'm behind again. matthiew d'astous (he's quite good) is playing Thursday at Theatre Lionel Groulx. And Friday, the very sexy Peter Elkas is opening for Jason Collett at Petit Campus.

and yes, that should be a wrap.